One of the most impactful people to come into my life in recent years is David Johnson. I met him at a holiday party, held annually on the same Saturday, which happens to be this coming one.
We had a series of interesting and hilarious conversations and I thought after leaving, “I want to know this guy better.” Shortly after the new year, I found his contact info through his portfolio website, Dave is a photographer, and shot him a note.
Within a month or so, I found myself at the first opening of the Contemporary Art Museum’s 2014 season, which Dave was also attending. I remember walking through the exhibition and he said something along the lines of, “the thing about a Botticelli is you can look at it and reductively say, ‘that’s pretty.’” Dave meant we are able to reduce the work down to a basic aesthetic rather than having to work to understand the piece's style and its story. He continued, "But with so much of the work in the contemporary world, you need to understand the context around it to properly take in what it represents and decide if you like it.” If the work is challenging to follow or not aesthetically pleasing at first glance, we might choose to disengage with it and write it off thinking, “anyone could do that”.
To whatever degree I'm accurately recalling his statement, that is the sentiment Dave imparted. When it comes to Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionist art, people are somewhat able to glance upon the work as decide if it is pretty and therefore assign it value. But when more abstract or minimalist work is in front of us, its harder to break down. It can be helpful, or even essential to have context.
Throughout my evolving friendship with Dave, I have come to hear his stories and experience life with him. One definitive part of his life and portfolio, is the Kerrville Folk Festival, an 18 day gathering in Texas with as much pageantry and history as music. Dave has been attending this for well over 10 years and is part of who he is. Yesterday I purchased two pieces of artwork he shot while in attendance
The bagged beer cans remind me of days gone by, recent and distant, of great nights out, which may or may not have been followed by hard mornings. With Dave being a Texas native, it also reminds me of his love for this beer.
The first thing I thought of when I saw the camper was a bar one might happen upon in a warm-weather climate. It offers a place for conversation, relaxation and a cold drink. It reminded me of a bar I once was at in Bali that offered relief from the heat.
But what they both offered was Dave’s personal and professional story. The restaurants we dine at, the vacations we take and the artwork we hang on our walls experiences we can be reminded of and stories we can tell ourselves. But when it comes to artwork, do we seek out something unique or do we buy something “pretty” from Crate & Barrel, Target or Ikea? Buying artwork can be intimidating but I feel it is a situation worth exploring to gain greater comfort around so that our homes may better reflect who we are and the story we want to tell ourselves.
Go Forth Boldly
p.s. Below are three points from "Dave’s Tripod”, which are starter question he recommends asking yourself, a gallery representative or artist when examining a new piece of work
Craft - what is it made of, how is made, whats the quality of craftsmanship
Concept - why is the artist making it, what are the questions they are asking, whats the idea, theme or theory
Context - what were the social circumstances involved work, who else is making work similar, what are the historical or contemporary factors